22 April 2012

Churches worthy of praise

Churches are synonymous with celestial divinity, other worldly charm and sacrosanct beauty. They act as safe harbours, ethereal bastions for the like-minded; metaphorical staircases up to the big man in the sky. We think that for all the magnificence they exude, churches should look as spectacular as the ideas they represent. So we’ve selected the most beautiful churches from across the globe that have just got to be visited. Their eccentric architecture and design take them as far away from the conventional idea of a small town church as is aesthetically possible. These are churches for those who worship design. Amen, Sister.


This magnificently vertiginous Lutheran parish church is the tallest architectural structure in Iceland, reaching 244 ft into the sky. The church was designed to resemble the basalt lava flows and glacial landscapes of Iceland’s supernatural scenery by architect Guajan Samaelsson’s. The structure took over 30 years to build; construction work began in 1945 and ended in 1974. To take advantage of the spectacular height the church reaches, ride the elevator to the top of the steeple for breathtaking views out over Reykjavik and the vast Atlantic. In Reykjavik you’ll find all the cultural trappings of a 21st century city, make sure to explore the eclectic music scene that pulsates at its heart.


This colourful cathedral is the centrepiece of Moscow’s Red Square. Its appearance is reminiscent of fairgrounds, circuses and hot air balloons, which could never be a bad thing. The cathedral was built in 1555 -1561 by Ivan IV (a.k.a Ivan the Terrible) to celebrate the capture of the Khanate of Kazan. Legend has it that after the cathedral was built Ivan had the architect, Postnik Yakovlev, blinded to prevent him from creating another building that mirrored, or worse, surpassed the beauty of the Cathedral of Saint Basil the Blessed. The Red Square is rich in symbols of Russia’s turbulent and intriguing past. There is hardly a more symbolic figure in Russian history than Vladimir Lenin and a visit to the Lenin Mausoleum where the waxed body of the man himself in housed, is a must.


This church, designed by innovative architects Jasmax, is somewhat of an architectural masterpiece. It’s beautifully eccentric design take it as far away from the small town church that stood before it. The $1.5M project involved the refurbishment and extension of the aforementioned 1960’s Church. The church space has been re-organised to increase seating capacity and add a new lounge, kitchen, office and meeting room.


This beguiling cathedral is the masterly work of renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer.  Completed in 1970, the building is a hyperboloid structure constructed from 16 concrete columns, weighing 90 tons each, that poke towards the heavens. The interior of the cathedral is just as beautiful, if not (dare we say it) even more beautiful than the exterior, the painted translucent panels between the columns allow light to flood into the cathedral creating the kind of ethereal otherworldly aura you would expect all churches to omit. The city of Brasilia is a planned city, designed in the shape of a giant bird or airplane. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is a must for any architecture aficionado.


If all churches looked like this, we’d go every Sunday. St Mary’s Cathedral in Tokyo is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tokyo. The original wooden structure was burned down during World War II. The present design, is a postmodernist masterpiece in the form of a giant cross and dates from 1964.


The dusty lapis lazuli and gilded gold of this Ukrainian Baroque style monastery make it one of the most beautiful churches on our list, in fact, it’s probably one of most beautiful churches on any list it graces. The exact history of the monastery is somewhat of a mystery, but it is thought to date back as far as 11th century, making it the oldest church in Kiev. If you’re in Kiev on the weekend, we recommend a spot of people watching on Kreshchatyk street where you will be treated to the sight of numerous street performers, entertainers and animal handlers.


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